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DPhil in Sustainable Urban Development

University of Oxford    Department for Continuing Education

Part time October Prof Doctorate, Research Only 4 - 8 years

About the course

The Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) in Sustainable Urban Development is a part-time programme that provides outstanding students an opportunity to pursue in-depth and rigorous research about the pressing challenges of urban sustainability and the processes of environmental, economic, and social development in urban environments around the world.

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Entry Requirements

Please see the University of Oxford Graduate Admissions website for entry requirements: View Website

 Course Content

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Where is University of Oxford

Student Profile(s)

Sandra Hiari

'Prior to enrolling in the DPhil programme, I was involved in several positions that involved working in both government-led and government-commissioned urban development programmes. One notable position, as the head of the planning and design department at the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, had me thrown into a plethora of situations where I got to observe and participate in decision-making alongside bureaucrats of all levels of seniority. Hugely intrigued by the need to study and closely scrutinize policymaking in Jordan, I revisited my long-held dream of continuing doctoral education. In my search of a program that could enable me to continue my professional work while studying, I found the DPhil in Sustainable Urban Development to be the right home.

'While all pieces fell into place, from developing an application proposal to passing through the daunting interview, I soon matriculated into the program and returned to student life. From the onset of the programme, the challenging part was to reconcile and adjust my way of thinking which is attuned to the practical world and tailor it to academic thought, with its completely different research sensibilities.

'While a DPhil’s best reward is served at the end, there are various milestone-related rewards along the way, such as awards and studentships. I am lucky to have been selected as a recipient of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research Foundation studentship for 2019. While the financial value is extremely appreciated, it is also morally uplifting to know that my research is encouraged by the academic community. Especially in the early stages, it can be hard to tell if the research is heading in the right direction when drenched in the knowledge-acquiring process of the literature review!

'My word of advice for anyone considering applying for this program is being aware that while the programme is administered in a part-time fashion and enables individuals to continue working while they study, such flexibility has another side to it. The professors assume that students are old and responsible enough to manage their own schedules and balance their commitments. The University resources are rich but one needs to navigate through them properly and thus carve out large amounts of time for the doctorate. I personally love the Oxford format and richness of content provided through the program because it is pretty much unique.'

Deland Chan

Before I enrolled, I was, and am still, based in the Program on Urban Studies at Stanford University where I direct our experiential learning initiatives for students to engage in real-world urban issues through coursework and fellowships. I also co-founded and lead the Human Cities Initiative. I previously worked as a senior urban planner with a focus on transportation and land use planning.

'Research and teaching have always gone hand in hand for me. Having worked in underserved communities that historically lacked access to the planning process or a seat at the decision-making table, I started my career in urban planning with a motivation to develop tools and capacities for non-planners to shape their communities. I became interested in contested frameworks of sustainability, which led me to the DPhil to explore these questions within a scholarly context.

'The Clarendon Scholarship has made it possible for me to pursue the DPhil at Oxford. I am grateful for this opportunity, which not only offers financial support to pursue my research but a chance to be part of a community of scholars and to meet students from across the university in different departments. I love learning from others from different disciplines and how they approach their work, which is endlessly fascinating for me and can lead to exciting ways of thinking about my work.

My recommendation for someone considering undertaking the DPhil in Sustainable Urban Development is to have a strong desire to do research and a set of intellectual questions that you hope to answer. Before applying, you should have a clear rationale for why you want to pursue the DPhil. After that, you will need to undergo the application process where you provide a detailed research proposal. There is also an interview, where in my situation, I discussed my potential research with three faculty members and was encouraged to think critically and thoughtfully about my proposal. I found this to be worthwhile and fun, but it is essential to consider both what you hope to get out of the process of undertaking the DPhil, as well as the potential outcomes of your research.

I am most looking forward to engaging with Oxford faculty, challenging myself intellectually, and producing a high-quality thesis. As issues of urbanization and sustainability drive some of the most pressing challenges of the 21st century, I look forward to continuing this research after the DPhil in my career.

Katherine Maxwell

I was inspired to apply for the SUD DPhil l as I wanted to build on my MSc thesis research which focused on measuring urban sustainability, an increasingly important area for both governmental and societal action. Making a positive contribution to the resolution of the climate crisis was a significant motivating factor in applying for the DPhil. I wanted to contribute towards the field both theoretically and practically.

It is challenging to balance work and leisure – especially with a DPhil. At times, I was working part-time, studying part-time and also trying to make the most of the research placement opportunities (most of which were abroad) to further develop my research skills. To balance all of this, I had to manage my time very effectively. I found my hobby, running, helped me ‘switch off’ from work mode.

'I found many things rewarding and enjoyable about the DPhil. Firstly, I enjoyed being challenged and the opportunity to critically analyse a subject in which I was (and still am) very much interested. I found both the Transfer of Status and Confirmation of Status very challenging, yet rewarding, experiences as they provided an opportunity to learn from world-leading experts who were willing to give advice on my research. Secondly, with a DPhil, all of the work depends on you and your ability to organise yourself effectively, so it was satisfying to reach key formal milestones (e.g., Transfer of Status) as well as informal academic goals that I had set myself to ensure I progressed. Thirdly, the opportunities to do research placements across the world enabled me to strengthen my research skills and apply my knowledge in a real-life context, as well as being fun!

The SUD DPhil is an exceptionally rewarding experience, both academically and personally. The research will challenge you in a positive way and you will come away with much more than a doctorate. As part of the SUD programme and Kellogg College, you do very much feel like part of a community – despite not living on campus. The advice, support and opportunities from staff are invaluable and you are made to feel part of a much bigger support network during your studies.


Key facts :
There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available for courses starting in 2020-21. Full scholarships will cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs.

For over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, nothing more than the standard course application is usually required. If you fulfil the eligibility criteria, you will be automatically considered.
The vast majority of Oxford scholarships are awarded to applicants who submit their course application by the January deadline.

Most Oxford scholarships worth over £1,000 are advertised through the Fees, Funding and Scholarship Search. You should use this tool to find out whether you are eligible for scholarships which require an additional application. If you are, the tool will include links to full details of how to apply.

In order to be considered for some scholarships offered by departments, you need to enter a scholarship reference code in the relevant section of the graduate application form. If this is the case, the code will be provided in the scholarship information given on department websites.

When are Oxford scholarships awarded?:
Most Oxford scholarships are awarded between late February and June. The approximate date by which decisions are expected to be made will normally be given in the scholarship information, available from the Scholarships A-Z listing.

A scholarship may be awarded either at the same time or after you are offered a place by your department. It may be awarded either before or after you have been offered a college place.

Value of Scholarship(s)

worth over £1,000


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Application Procedure

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